The Jewish Chronicle
The star coach deported under Italy’s race law
ISRAELI drugmaker Teva Pharmaceutical Industries intends to close or divest 11 plants in 2019, in addition to the seven facilities already slated for closure during 2018. Despite this news, the multinational has continued a turnaround from the brink of complete collapse, strengthening its financial stability after cutting its costs significantly — as well as thousands of jobs.
AT 34, in 1930 he became the youngest coach ever to win the Italian Premier League title — a feat he would repeat twice more. Yet accolades would count for nothing: with the implementation of the 1938 Racial Laws, Hungarian-born Arpad Weisz became just another Jew and was forced to leave Italy.
Now the extraordinary story of this football legend who ended up as an Auschwitz statistic is told in a moving exhibition, ‘Arpad Weisz: If racism gets on to the pitch’, opening this week at Milan’s Memoriale della Shoah.
Using images from Matteo Matteucci’s atmospheric graphic novel on the subject, Arpad Weisz e il Littoriale, it charts Weisz’s life and football adventures in the Italy of the 1930s.
The story begins with his arrival in the country as a player; the move to coaching after a serious injury; his first scudetto — or championship badge — with Ambrosiana-Inter in 1930, and a subsequent two with Bologna in 1936 and 1937; and a memorable win against Chelsea in the 1937 Tournoi International de L’Expo Universelle de Paris, a forerunner of the Champions League.
As a coach, Weisz was ahead of his time: charismatic, a good communicator, a master tactician whose 1930 handbook The Game of Football encompasses technique, psychology, players’ characteristics and duties.
The book reflected Weisz’s hands-on approach and his nose for talent-scouting that spotted Giuseppe Meazza, a skinny 17-year-old who went on to become Italy’s first football superstar.
But, after 1938, Weisz was no longer welcome. He tried unsuccessfully to find work in France and appeared to get a lifeline coaching a Dutch side, Dordrecht, but that was short-lived.
In 1942, Arpad, his wife Elena and two children, Roberto and Clara, were deported to Auschwitz. Elena and the children were gassed immediately, but Arpad himself survived until January 1944.
Forgotten for decades, Weisz has recently become a beacon in the fight against racism. First came a memorial plaque at Milan’s San Siro Stadium in 2012, then in 2013 an acclaimed biography, From the scudetto to Auschwitz, followed by a friendly tournament held every year in his name between the Inter and Bologna under-17 teams.
Most recently, during a match between Inter and Bologna, shirts bearing his name and the number 18 (which numerically means “life” in Hebrew) were exchanged.
Given Weisz’s story’s tragic ending, it seems particularly fitting that this exhibition should take place at Milan’s Shoah Memorial.
Located at what used to be platform 21 of the city’s central station, on a sublevel below the main tracks, this is where in the 1940s deportees were loaded on to livestock cars destined for the camps. It is a journey Weisz would have recognised only too well.
‘Arpad Weisz – Se il razzismo entra in campo’ will run in Milan until April 14
His wife and children were gassed at once, but lived on